The Eastern Conference becomes vulnerable after LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers to join the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency. As of now, three NBA teams emerge as the top favorites to rule the LeBron-less Eastern Conference next season. These include the Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors, and the Philadelphia 76ers.
In the recent ESPN Summer Forecast, the Celtics are named as the “presumptive kings” of the East, receiving 153 total points and 84.9 percent first-place votes to become the new conference champs. It’s not a surprise why the Celtics got the most votes from the ESPN panelists. Even without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, they managed to reach the Eastern Conference Finals last season and forced a Game 7 against LeBron James and the Cavaliers.
Now that Irving and Hayward are both 100 percent healthy, the Celtics are expected to be a more dangerous team in the 2018-2019 NBA season.
“With LeBron leaving the East, the Celtics are officially the presumptive kings of the conference. They’ve had as good of an offseason as anyone else in the league without making any major moves because they’ll add back a healthy Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward to a blossoming roster that was good enough to play in the conference finals last season. Their biggest question is one of those good-problem kinds of things: How do all the pieces fit together? But they already have a quality solution in place: Brad Stevens,” said Royce Young of ESPN.
Boston Celtics: Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving will be cleared by training camp https://t.co/AhCmooBHHa— The Celtics Wire (@TheCelticsWire) August 8, 2018
The Eastern Conference may be having a new representative in the NBA Finals next season, but things are expected to be the same in the Western Conference. Despite the improvement made by other powerhouse teams, the reigning NBA champions, Golden State Warriors, are still expected to rule the Western Conference for the fifth consecutive season. In the ESPN Summer Forecast, the Warriors got 165 total points and 100 percent first-place votes to become the 2019 West champions and NBA champions.
The prediction isn’t surprising at all. After winning back-to-back NBA championship titles, the Warriors managed to retain their core of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Kevin Durant this offseason. Also, they succeeded to address their weakness at center with the acquisition of DeMarcus Cousins in free agency.
However, the Celtics will surely not let the Warriors win their third consecutive NBA championship title without giving them a tough fight. The Warriors may enter the NBA Playoffs 2019 with a starting lineup featuring five NBA All-Stars, but they shouldn’t underestimate the Celtics, especially if Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward mesh well with Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum.